I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, ‘nowhere to go but up.’ Well, that is pretty much the story of the AL Central entering 2022. For a division that had both the Cy Young and MVP just one season prior, 2021 was abysmal for the Central. Sure the Chicago White Sox won the division with 93 wins but outside of that, every team finished below .500.
The team formerly known as the Indians struggled, the Minnesota Twins really fell apart and then traded Nelson Cruz signaling the end to their short-lived time on top, and the Kansas City Royals had one player worth watching.
The only team that actually performed well to expectation, outside of the White Sox, was the lowly Detroit Tigers. The doormat of the division for years, the Tigers finished in third and saw some minor gains in their own rebuild back to relevancy not seen since the days of Miguel Cabrera’s triple crown. But the good news for the Central is it really would be hard for a lot of these teams to do any worse this year. So, good news there at least.
How Good Can the White Sox Lineup Be?
- +1100 to Win World Series
- +600 to Win American League
- -200 to Win AL Central
About a week ago, MLB.com ranked the best lineups in baseball heading into 2022 and it wouldn’t surprise anyone to see the Dodgers top of that list or the Blue Jays holding down the second position. But what may surprise is that the White Sox, who finished last year as seventh in the league in runs scored and OPS, were picked as having the third best lineup ahead of upgraded units from several other offensive-minded teams. Chicago definitely has a strong unit, led by Jose Abreu, Yasmani Grandal, Tim Anderson, and Yoan Moncada.
It is hard to deny the talent on the South side of Chicago even if they did lose Craig Kimbrel, Adam Eaton, Nick Madrigal, and Carlos Rodon in the offseason. The White Sox are defending their AL Central crown and it really is theirs to lose this year. That’s not to say Chicago is untouchable, just that the other teams will have to come take what the White Sox look readily able to retain. From the mound and from the dish, the White Sox are the most well-rounded team in a division that at times last year, seemed capable of just one competent team.
Introducing the Cleveland Guardians
- +7500 to Win World Series
- +3500 to Win American League
- +1300 to Win AL Central
No longer just the name or website domain of a roller derby team, the Cleveland Guardians are ready to make their MLB debut in 2022. And to their credit, they aren’t projected to have a bad season. They just aren’t being pegged to have a particularly good one either. With one of the lowest payrolls in baseball, the Guardians have failed to do what the Tampa Rays have, and that’s turn garbage into gold. Cleveland has struggled with the lack of finances, watching good players walk or be traded to make cap room in recent years. But new year, new name, new team right? The Guardians are expected to take a step forward as they are led by one of baseball’s most exciting young players in Jose Ramirez, who hit 36 home runs and 103 RBI last year. From the mound, Shane Bieber looks to be the bright spot as the ace held down the fort last year, with an ERA just over 3.15. But the Guardians do have some depth behind him as well in the form of Aaron Civale and Zach Plesac, who both pitched well in 2021. The Guardians should be good, but not good enough to match the White Sox and the offensive power their lineup is expected to bring.
Will Offseason Spending Put the Tigers Back into Contention?
- +4000 to Win World Series
- +2000 to Win American League
- +550 to Win AL Central
It’s too early to say for sure if the Tigers rebuild has turned the corner, but so far, fans have every reason to like what they see. Detroit took a step forward last year when they left the cellar and finished in a respectable third place in the AL Central. They look to take another step this year after a willingness to spend some money in the offseason.
The Tigers made some moves, signing Eduardo Rodrigues, and trading for Andrew Chafin to help aid a pitching staff that had some serious holes. But perhaps their biggest move was signing Javier Baez, who hit 31 home runs last year and is still one of the game’s best defensive shortstops. Add to that guys who were already in town in Jeimer Candelario and Jonathan Schoop and this is a lineup that could be formidable in 2022. With expanded playoffs, don’t count the Tigers out of potentially snagging a wildcard spot.
Close but No Cigar: Kansas City Royals and Minnesota Twins
In some ways, outside of the White Sox, it really is a toss-up as to who could win the AL Central, and that includes the Twins and Royals. But these two teams seem just a bit behind and did just a bit less than what their opponents did in the offseason, hence why we’ve not expecting major upgrades from them this season.
The Royals are returning Zack Greinke, which is an addition to their pitching staff, but he’s far removed from his glory days with the team back in the late 2000s. The team does boast some nice young pieces as well however in the form of Brady Singer and Kris Bubic. And from the plate, Kansas City has baseball’s No. 1 prospect, Bobby Witt Jr., who should no doubt be part of the team’s plans in 2022 and beyond. So that’s not to say that the Royals don’t have some good pieces. They just have more questions than answers at this point as with youth comes uncertainty.
Here is your reminder that the Twins used to be good, really good. Minnesota has ruined nice seasons with abysmal playoff performances, failing to win a game in nearly two decades. But the regular season tells another story. Minnesota is working their way back to relevancy and by their acquisitions of Carlos Correa, Sonny Gray, Chris Archer, and others, it is clear they aren’t aiming for a slow rebuild back to the top. Byron Buxton is still a name to watch as he is coming off his best, albeit shortened season in the majors last year, hitting .301 with 19 home runs in just 61 games. Offensively, the Twins should score runs but the rotation is certainly a bit of a head-scratcher.
The White Sox are a class above, but is that class attainable by any of the other four teams this year? It is hard to say. The AL Central projects to be a competitive race where anything can happen. A slight slip-up by the White Sox and we could be looking at the only division in baseball with five teams all competing for a title.
As easily as that could be the case, the AL Central could also just as likely implode as it did last year. This division is tough to call. For that reason, we’re opting to play it safe and back the White Sox to continue their recent run of divisional titles.
Marilee writes on NFL, MLB, NBA & tennis for USA Betting. Another area of her sporting journalistic expertise is pro wrestling. A native of Philadelphia and a big Eagles fan, she has been a sports writer for many major websites including Bleacher Report and Rant Sports. She started her journalistic career early, as sports editor for her college newspaper.